461 Main Street, New London NH

Current Use

  • First Baptist Church

Building History

The Rev. Job Seamans, a Baptist minister from Attleboro, Massachusetts, accepted New London's call in June 1788 and was installed as pastor on Jan. 21, 1789. His influential role, as he preached from the Meeting House on Old Main Street, gave the Baptist denomination prominence in the community, and most citizens of the town were members. In time, other religious groups were formed and demanded use of the Meeting House. In 1825, a special town meeting voted to deny exclusive use of the original Meeting House by the Baptists. On July 4,1826, the New London Baptists began erecting their own church, which was dedicated on January 11, 1827. Three days before, on January 8, the land was officially deeded from Josiah Brown to David Everett and Anthony Colby, representing the First Baptist Society.[1] The two men also oversaw the building project, the design of which was taken from Asher Benjamin's influential book, The Country Builder's Assistant (1797). Originally the structure was six bays long, with the pulpit at the entry end of the building. A small Revere bell in the tower was replaced with a larger one, from the Revere Copper Co., in the 1830s. In 1838 horse sheds were constructed behind the building.

In 1853, many new students were attracted to the nearby New London Literary and Scientific Institute, which had been taken over and renamed by the New Hampshire Baptists in that year. The students attended daily chapel at the church, necessitating its expansion to accommodate them all. The building was cut open and the pulpit end was moved back, making room for twenty new pews. At the same time, the pulpit was moved to the opposite (east) end of the building.

In 1874 a vestry or parish house was erected behind the building, to the left of the horsesheds, funded by George W. Herrick. It was doubled in size in 1904 with a gift from Mrs. James B. (Susan Colby) Colgate, and a second story was added in 1921. It was remodeled and rededicated as the Parish House in the 1930s.

In 1884 a clock was installed in the tower, given by two prominent citizens, Luther McCutchins and Mark Nelson. It was given to the town, not the church, however, and the town was responsible for winding it daily and for its maintenance.

Many interior changes were initiated over time, including a tin ceiling, gas lighting, a baptistry (installed in 1906) and the replacement of the small paned windows with two over two sashes. The original horse sheds suffered a fire and though not destroyed, were torn down and rebuilt, with fewer stalls, around 1906. Later they were used as car stalls and were demolished in 1932.

Major restoration of the church began in 1955 when the windows were replaced to reflect their original appearance. The pastor's study was also enlarged. In 1962 more extensive work began - installing a new high pulpit with flanking stairs and a Palladian window behind it, replastering the interior, retiling the baptistry, and installing new chandeliers and other lighting. New doors were installed in the entry and on each side of the vestibule, with elaborate pedimented enframements.

n 1969 a new parish hall, added the the rear of the building, replaced the older, separate hall which was demolished in 1967. The addition includes meeting rooms, class rooms, a library/parlor, church offices, a kitchen, and a restroom. In 2003 the southern portion of this building was demolished, new rooms for offices and meetings added, and a second floor was constructed, providing a choir room,(also used as a chapel), and additional meeting and classroom spaces.

In 1987 the gallery of the sanctuary was enlarged on the west end, with four supporting columns underneath, to accommodate a new organ.

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First Baptist Church

  1. ^ Merrimack County Registry of Deeds, Vol. 12, page 468